“Where Nothing Is In Its Place Lies Disorder”
“Where Nothing Is In Its Place Lies Disorder”: An exhibition featuring works by 2nd year MFA candidates at AHVA Library Gallery, UBC, October 12- November 5, 2011
In a library, when nothing is in its designated place, we can assertively speak of disorder, not to mention complete chaos. Through this displacement, objects – sources of knowledge – become inaccessible and consequently, the whole institution seems to crumble down, unable to fulfill its mandate of providing orderly access to information.
Thankfully, at the Koerner library, the disorder seems to be contained within the walls of the AHVA Library Gallery. From the silence of the library, we enter a noisy room punctuated by a number of works that at first sight appear to have little in common – individual pieces of creative labour confined to a singular space – in a way, a microcosm of the library itself which houses millions of disparate items under one roof.
But as we begin to explore, certain common dimensions become apparent in the way these different pieces are articulated – there is a subtle fascination with the ‘behind the scenes’ (from the underlying structure – to the private – to the inaccessible) and an impulse to (re)stage it.
in the mystery of the hour/a coded message:/qrliyctesbtisrovqfvcfkfqiezcq 1.361 kw/m2/ all farewells are sudden is a mechanical sculpture, created by Nathan McNinch, whose very apparatus is not concealed from the viewer, with wires and rock-weights helping to mobilize the intricate drawing tools; this apparent simplicity, however, obscures the meticulous workings of such a machine. Standing in front of the work, one can’t help but wonder what is the purpose of this curious invention – is what the machine produces art or is the structure itself the art work. If the former is true, then, perhaps, we as viewers are transgressing the secret boundaries of production by witnessing the magic being done.
In An ideological question about the fifth type of subject that is induced by an amorous encounter. (and now, the marine subject), Ali Ahadi ponders the philosophical question of whether a fifth hybrid type of subject, non-existent in Alain Badiou’s theory, can actually be born. While the question and the possible answers are posited, the viewer remains on the outskirts of meaning as any closer access to the problem (the question that is projected onto a TV screen) and to its potential solution (supposedly located in books) is denied, as the TV is facing a wall, letting us glimpse its transmission only through a mirrored reflection, and the books, displayed in the shelving unit, are defamiliarized as their title-bearing spines are also turned towards the wall. The viewer is quite literally behind the scenes, excluded from the action while being directly implicated in it.
Nelly César’s installation, To my dear world obsessed with penetration 3, invites the visitor into a private sphere reminiscent of an office or a studio environment. The mini-room within a room is open for public interaction. What from a distance looks like a vibrant and ordinary working space, turns into a staged battlefield of symbols – Holes against paper, text, images of shapes and the space itself. Here, the hole-puncher activity takes on a different dimension.
In the next piece, while you are not offered to analyze inkblots and no other evident psychological test is underway, you do not know whether you are an outsider or part of the experiment as an involved participant. Kevin Day’s 4 channel sound installation, Rorschach Conversation on Pattern Recognition, strategically puts the visitor in an awkward position of either staying on the fringes and eavesdropping on a strange conversation or placing oneself centre-stage (in the middle of 4 human-height plinths with speakers), trying to make sense of what is being said as bits of forum exchanges are circulated anew, transcribing the virtual, typed language into that of the spoken everydayness.
Erika Petro lets the viewer consider her personal documents concerning a legal name change; while it is obvious that such an undertaking has public repercussions, as now everyone will have to refer to her by the new name, there is a certain element of indiscreetness which makes this personal matter a case of public importance. As if in a real promotional attempt akin to branding, the new official name is staged as a glowing pink neon sign spelling out Lux Petrova – after all, even small private affairs are of big institutional concern.
In Symbiosis, Yan Luo provides a lens through which the exterior landscape is restaged as part of the interior space by projecting a digital image of what is outside the gallery window onto a wax screen whose transparency and structure bring to mind a real window. This installation can be viewed from both sides, letting the viewer appreciate the delicate nature of the work and to feel the pulsation of the projection from behind, to notice the subtle changes that are not perceptible when looking at the seemingly still image from the front.
The exhibition space is often simply a blank canvas onto which the artistic innovation is projected, but in this case, there is much more to be said about the echoes between the context and the works. McNinch manages to call up a sense of wonder, Ahadi alludes to the solidified and intangible states of knowledge embodied in books and theory, César explores power through volumes and collections of paper – the medium of authority par excellence, Day plays around with language and its intricate ways of both uniting and ostracizing, Petro begins to construct an unconventional archive, Luo makes an alluring connection between the interior space and the outside world – the library and what it is made up of – the narratives from without.
In a space where nothing is in its place, one may certainly find disorder, but upon consideration of this exhibition, one also perceives that even in the space where everything is in its place, what lies ‘behind the scenes’ may be in complete disarray. Through these individual installations, even the most orderly of places, the library, becomes a questionable entity whose highly utopian and democratic principles are considered from a different angle, seeking to put new perspectives in order.